Grow Your Business

Buried Treasure

By Tom Foster

William Kidd, the infamous 17th Century pirate, is said to have buried treasure he plundered from ships at sea.  While much of the treasure is rumored to have been hidden around Long Island Sound, there is no official record of any treasure maps.

That hasn’t stopped treasure seekers who for years have been digging for loot on Gardiner’s Island in New York and Charles, Cockenoe and the Thimble Islands in Connecticut. Whether anyone has unearthed the millions of dollars in gold or jewels that Capt. Kidd may have buried is subject to much speculation and conjecture.

While many people would love to discover buried treasure, one group – the financial advisors who support the retirement plans marketplace – have no need of treasure maps, picks or shovels to seek the pirate’s trove. Instead, advisors are able to seek their own fortunes by unearthing the gold nuggets of information available from public sources on retirement plan sponsors and the issues they need help navigating. And there’s no need to get their hands dirty.

The Department of Labor maintains extensive records from information gleaned from Form 5500, which plan sponsors must file annually. Form 5500 contains treasured insights about each plan, including which ones suffer from problems such as poor participation, anemic contributions, failed compliance tests and other problems that advisors can help address.

Advisors even have access to their own electronic maps that can help pinpoint where the treasure is located. Several professional services such as Larkspur Data Resources, Judy Diamond, Free ERISA and others have created search engines that can be used to unearth specific data about retirement plans in their area. Typically, the data is sifted and organized to make it easier to pinpoint specific issues and searches.

For instance, advisors can pinpoint plan sponsors that lack an advanced plan design, fail to comply with fiduciary obligations, have inadequate fidelity bond protection, make corrective distributions, suffer from low participation rates and other issues.  Because employers are now required to file Form 5500 electronically, this information is now available online sooner than ever.

These and other problems are opportunities for advisors to help retirement plan sponsors overcome to improve the effectiveness of their plan and the retirement readiness of their employees. Solving these problems can place advisors in the company of business owners who not only need help making their retirement plans run more effectively but who have other personal financial needs such as life and disability insurance protection, estate planning and business continuation, to name a few.  Fixing problems with their retirement plans can go a long way towards establishing an advisor’s credibility for overall financial guidance.

Advisors who affiliate with MassMutual enjoy free access to one such service: Planisphere from Larkspur Data Resources. Planisphere is a powerful search engine that connects to a national database and other sources to provide easy-to-access information and analytical capabilities about employers and their retirement plans. Access to Planisphere can be gained through MassMutual’s practice management website for advisors, AdvisorAdvantage+. It’s a great place to start for advisors who are looking for retirement plan prospects.

Planisphere can be your ticket to uncovering treasure in the retirement plans marketplace and helping you establish yourself as a problem-solver for clients who own or run businesses.

And unlike the buccaneers and privateers of Capt. Kidd’s era, there’s no need to walk the plank, sing pirate songs or display the Jolly Roger. Unless, of course, you want to.

E. Thomas Foster Jr. is head of strategic relationships for retirement plans for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. (MassMutual).